Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Sewer task force meets privately to organize

Members of a task force that will look at Elkhart's controversial compact policy met for the first time Wednesday.
Posted on May 16, 2013 at 1:00 a.m. | Updated on May 16, 2013 at 4:18 p.m.

ELKHART — The compact sewer task force met for nearly two hours Wednesday, May 15, according to a city council member who participated.

Brian Thomas, a Republican who is one of two council representatives on the task force, said the meeting was mostly “organizational” and that there is a general desire among members to wrap up work after two or three more meetings.

The meeting was not open to the press and Mayor Dick Moore, who assembled the task force, said he preferred they meet privately.

Whether future meetings will be open to the public remains unclear.

Names of the task force have not been released despite repeated requests.

A representative of the Indiana Public Access Counselor said Monday she believed the meeting was a violation of the Indiana Open Door Law because the task force was appointed by an elected official and proper notice about the meeting was not provided to the public.

Thomas said the task force did not openly discuss whether future meetings should or would be open to the public.

He said he was indifferent on whether the meetings are open.

Thomas said attendance at the meeting was strong with representatives from the city, Elkhart County, businesses within the city and outside of the city and developers.

Thomas said Moore spoke to the group and said he would not participate in future meetings unless invited.

The task force was created as part of an agreement between Moore and state lawmakers after legislators agreed to drop an amendment to a bill that was aimed at addressing the financial impact the existing compact fee policy has on commercial customers outside of the city.

The task force is expected to make a recommendation to city council for it’s consideration.

Some people have complained about the secrecy of the task force and suggested the board is weighted with people who prefers Moore’s position on the issue.

Thomas said he doesn’t believe the task force is “stacked” and dismissed the issue. He also said he doesn’t think it boils down to a Democrat or Republican issue.

Several Republicans on city council have said they believe the existing policy based on assessed property value needs to be changed. Moore has said repeatedly that he believes a formula based on assessed value is best.

City council member Tonda Hines and State Rep. Tim Neese are also on the task force.

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